America learned of a mass shooting earlier this week on the campus of Michigan State University. Three were killed, and five others were critically injured by a crazed gunman. A senseless, horrible tragedy.
President Biden responded on Tuesday: “I’m going to say something that’s always controversial. There is no rationale for assault weapons and magazines that hold 50, 70 bullets.”
As usual, he has his “facts” wrong.
First, we have not seen confirmed reports of “assault weapons” being used by the gunman. If anything, surveillance video seems to show what looks like a handgun.
In addition, the shooting does not appear to be racially motivated, as the victims were both Black and White.
What we do know is that he could have been prevented from possessing a gun because of past criminal conduct. In 2019, the gunman was arrested for a crime that is a felony in Michigan.
Many in the media have pointed out that the gunman was carrying “a Ruger LCP .380 semi-automatic pistol and a loaded magazine” when he was arrested in 2019. So far, I have not found a story identifying the weapon used on Monday. A cynic might suggest that the media is trying to confuse the public into thinking that was what he used on campus.
The gunman could have been convicted of a felony for the 2019 crime. If so, he would have been prevented from possessing a gun this week.
Carol Siemon was the previous Ingham County prosecutor. Understandably, she faced criticism from local police chiefs and sheriffs after implementing a new policy that reduced most felony gun charges.
At the time, Ms. Siemon said: “The new policy concerning Felony Firearm charging is related to dramatic racial inequity in how this and certain other laws have been charged and is not in any way linked to the goal that we share of keeping the public safe. The purported link between this policy and any future rise in gun violence is disingenuous and erroneous.”
Current Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane said that the gunman “would have been barred from legally purchasing, owning, or possessing a firearm if he would have been convicted of the charge. The misdemeanor conviction did not prevent him from purchasing, owning, or possessing a firearm after he successfully completed his terms of probation.”
In other words, the woke policies of a liberal prosecutor led this horrible person to have access to a gun. The answer is not making it harder for law-abiding citizens to possess firearms. The solution is to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on guns.
Mental health issues were clearly part of the problem, too. The gunman’s family mentioned his issues and even suggested that he see a doctor. They recalled his rapid decline after the death of his mother in 2020.
“He was grieving his mom. He wouldn’t let it go. He got bitter, bitter and bitter,” the gunman’s father said. “His mom died, and he just started getting evil and mean. He didn’t care about anything anymore.”
Killing three people and critically injuring five others is pure evil. It is yet another example of the need to reach people suffering from severe mental illness before they are a threat to other people or to themselves.
Ironically, in a world filled with ways to communicate, many people are becoming more isolated. The problem was growing, but the changes brought on by the shutdowns during the response to the global pandemic have made it worse. Human beings need positive social interaction with other humans.
In 1994, a gunman walked into a high school in the town where Tonette and I raised our children. He shot and killed the vice principal. Sadly, he had been arrested for a crime that would have been a felony if he had been an adult, and he was involuntarily committed for a period of time by the state. Either would have blocked him from obtaining a gun, except that since he was a minor at the time of his arrest, his record had been sealed.
At the time, I worked with Republican and Democratic legislators to change the law and allow the criminal background check system to include the records of juveniles. If we don’t allow felons and people committed for severe mental health issues to possess a gun as adults, we should apply the same standard if it happened as a minor. These are the type of reasonable changes that can and should be made to the law.
Lawmakers in Michigan would be wise to require felony charges for serious firearm crimes. That would keep guns out of the hands of criminals like the one at Michigan State University on Monday.
• Scott Walker is president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.